Changing financial climate impacts youth program funding; Council taking time to help Butch Reynolds foundation find other support for after-school program

October 27, 2009

For seven years, Akron City Council has routinely authorized funding for the Butch Reynolds Care for Kids Foundation’s after school and summer mentoring programs for Akron’s at-risk youth.

Because of the city’s budget crisis, Council is taking time on this year’s funding request in hopes that it can help the foundation find other funding sources.

The foundation is seeking $120,000 in city funding, which is actually $24,000 lower after eliminating a fitness component, the summer program and money for snacks for participating children in five Akron elementary schools and the Joy Park Community Center. Council’s Budget and Finance Committee Chair Tina Merlitti (W-7) agreed the program is worthy of support because of its emphasis on mentoring and providing positive role models for disadvantaged children, but wonders how Council can justify the expenditure after having laid off employees – particularly those who lost jobs at Akron’s community and recreation centers.

 “I don’t see how we can hire an outside contractor for after school enrichment programming when we just laid off 60 parks and recreation employees,” Merlitti said. “We don’t mind helping launch a program, and it’s certainly a worthy cause, but we can’t be their continued source of funding.

“We’ll actually be scrutinizing all of the similar programs the city has been funding.”

Merlitti said her committee advised the foundation to partner with Akron Public Schools’ much-lauded Akron After School program, which just received an approximately $2 million 21st Century Community Learning Center grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Merlitti said the potential exists for Akron Public Schools to hire the Butch Reynolds Foundation staff at the same rate of pay to carry out the program at the same sites, and to handle all program administrative tasks including payroll.

The Butch Reynolds Foundation plans to operate its after-school program from Nov. 2 to May 21, 2010 out of David Hill, Robinson, Glover, Helen Arnold and Mason Community Learning Centers. The summer program had previously been operated out of the Joy Park Community Center.